New York in the Year 2000 (Oct, 1927)

This is a fun look at the city of the future. Their New York of 2000 seems fairly similar that of today, just with more blimps and less variety of food. And I can’t wait to see the giant milkquitducts “carrying great white streams into the city from the dairy regions, 200 miles away.”

Babies Born Today May See

Cities of 30,000,000, Skyscraper Sidewalks, Roof Top Airports and Food Piped As Water Is Today


FROM the height of a great precipice two men looked down on a continuous stream of moving automobiles. Farther from the ground than the Palisades rise above the Hudson River at the highest point, they were on no natural crag. They were looking down from a window on the twentieth story of a New York hotel—not a fabulous building of a hundred years hence—but a matter-of-fact structure of today. Dinner was served in their room. The fish had traveled more than 6,000 miles to reach them— Alaska salmon. The steak came from a steer raised near the Mexican border, shipped a thousand miles to be “finished” by a special feeding, another five hundred miles to be dressed, and still another thousand miles in refrigerator cars to reach the metropolis. Fruit from Southern California, vegetables from Georgia, olives from Italy. And the eggs in the Mayonnaise dressing for the salad—no joking—were laid on the other side of the world, in China, nearly two years before. It was good Mayonnaise, too. There was a knock at the door.

It was a bell boy with a letter that had traveled 3,000 miles to reach them in little more than two days. It was the air mail from San Francisco.

After dinner, the travelers stepped on a little covered platform and dropped three hundred feet to the ground floor. Merely a commonplace express elevator.

In a city where such wonders are already taken for granted, what will conditions be in another seventy-five years?

Let us suppose one of the men is eighty years old. Every one of these marvels has come about during his lifetime. He may have a grandson who is seven. By the time that boy reaches eighty, the end of the century—2,000 A.D.—will have come. Only a lifetime away! Will that lifetime see as great changes as the last—or still greater?

NEW YORK CITY in another seventy-three years, according to the scientific calculations of Dr. Raymond Pearl, Director of the Institute of Biological Research at Johns Hopkins University, will be more than twice as big as it is today. The city proper will have a population of 13,948,000. In the area described as “Greater New York” there will be 17,797,000 people; and in the suburban area the total population, according to figures based on the law of growth described in the June Popular Science Monthly, will be 28,705,000.

How will such an enormous city be cared for?

Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit will have population problems almost as serious. Other great cities—Seattle, Galveston, perhaps Charleston, S. C,— will likewise have had to turn to modern science to solve difficulties of congested living.

The population problems of every great city fall into three fields: Housing, feeding, and transportation. New York City in 2,000 A.D. will have advanced farther in these fields than we can even imagine clearly today. But in all probability transportation matters will be the most pressing—just as they are today. Problems of feeding have to be solved before people can even go to live in a city in such great numbers, and housing problems also have to be met.

Transportation of food and transportation of building materials will run along smoothly enough, but transportation of people goes forward, in congested centers, only when conditions become intolerable. That will be as true in 2,000 A.D. as it is today. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren will get into some terrific traffic jams! When, for instance, they have to fly over the city for miles before they find a single public landing-stage with room left for them to park on. Or they may have to stand, packed like sardines, for three quarters of an hour, evening after evening, before they can fight their way onto one of the great tunnel-buses of the Underground!

Let’s take up the matter of feeding. How will thirty million people in the Greater New York area of 2,000 A.D. get their food? And what will it be?

Huge engineering projects, of course, will have been carried out to provide the immense city of the future with an abundant water supply. But unless one should visit the great artificial lakes and reservoirs of that day, it is likely that the huge dams and tunnels and aqueducts will be little better known than is the eighteen-mile Shandaken Tunnel of the New York water supply today. Far more amazing, perhaps, will he huge pipe lines of milk, carrying great white streams into the city from the dairy regions, 200 miles away.

IN LARGE measure, probably, the food itself will not be so very different from what we are accustomed to today. There is a possibility that new discoveries, like the “artificial sunlight” that Professor Steenbock of the University of Wisconsin has produced to make Vitamin D, will change food conditions greatly. But it seems rather unlikely. The further scientists delve into the chemical analysis, of living tissue and digestive processes, the further they find they must go before they reach the ability to reproduce Nature’s own processes. On the other hand, Professor Edgar M. East, of Harvard University, points out that foods will probably be much less varied fifty or seventy-five years from now than today. There will be a wider use of cereals, but not so many kinds of cereals. The same will probably be true of vegetables. Fruits will have tended to “standardize,” with a few varieties like apples and oranges, or possibly coconuts or some other tropical product, far outstripping all the rest.

The use of meats, fish and other sea foods will probably have diminished greatly. Seventy-five years ago, in the period before the Civil War, New York menus, Professor East points out, listed a variety of game that would make an epicure’s mouth water today—some fifty varieties. Food is most varied when a country is new; as the population increases, certain staples of diet come to be more and more widely used. The New Yorkers of 2,000 A.D. will probably eat quantities of a prepared food made from some such cereal as Egyptian corn, that can be grown cheaply and brought in large quantities from lands now only partially productive in the South. Or perhaps it may still be wheat.

Charles P. Steinmetz, the great electrical wizard, had a dream that some day laboratory products would supplant the present round of meats and vegetables. He visioned huge protein farms constructed underground in layers, sunned with artificial light. The English scientist, J. B. S. Haldane, pictures the day of synthetic foods, chemically produced, in his book of the future—”Daedalus” But these visions are not likely to materialize within seventy-five years.

To be sure, ground that is today going to waste will be used for agricultural purposes, just as in Holland and Belgium and Germany every strip along the roadside is made to bear its harvest.

But the plants themselves, in spite of all that Burbank and his followers have shown us, will not have changed very greatly. Dr. William Crocker, Director of the Boyce Thompson Institute of Plant Research, points out that it takes something like fifteen years to find, try out and introduce on a wide scale any improvement in a staple like wheat.

Our children and grandchildren, he predicted to me, will be eating food not particularly different from much that is found in the world today; but in the preparation of that food there will be a great difference.

Many people believe that skyscraper hotels, apartments and office buildings are rapidly approaching their limit of height. But one of our greatest architects, Harvey Wiley Corbett, of New York City, said to me:

“DON’T think of skyscrapers in terms of the men who build them if you want to get an idea of what a city of the future may look like. Think of future cities, or groups of skyscrapers, as you think of coral islands or trees, with the human beings playing merely the part of coral insects, or of the sap that builds trees. Compare the New York skyline to a coral reef, or a bunch of skyscrapers to a grove of trees, and you can get an idea of how much a city like New York will grow and change in another three quarters of a century.

He added that no one can yet prophesy what height buildings will reach, but that in all probability the end is not yet anywhere near in sight. A hundred stories are not beyond possibility, even within thirty years. “Why,” said Mr. Corbett, ” I was present at the party given in honor of the completion of the Pulitzer Building in Park Row. Several of the great architects of that day were present, and they agreed the building marked the limit of the height that skyscrapers could attain. The physical problems to be overcome, the structural problems, were so great that they thought man could never build higher than that. Yet today the Woolworth Building is more than three times as high. And every decade sees the limit advanced.”

Building restrictions in New York City, to be sure, just at present make much taller structures seem unlikely. But Mr. Corbett pointed out that limitations of the height of buildings come merely in response to the needs and demands of the moment, and will be wiped out again as soon as new needs demand greater edifices once more.

Another thing: While some buildings, at least, “will be far taller than the world knows today, many will be larger. A single apartment hotel, forty stories high and covering an entire block, will be nothing unusual. Some may house 10,000 or more people, and supply them with food from a single kitchen. Perhaps there will be Government inspectors on hand to see that all food is treated with violet ray, potassium permanganate, or some other disease-combating chemical.

Sidewalk bridges hundreds of feet above the streets may be used in this New York of 2,000. We can already see their first beginnings in the occasional high bridges across street chasms, from one office building to another in lower Manhattan. Building permits have already been granted that will mean more of these, further uptown, in the immediate future. From the fortieth story, or perhaps the eightieth, men of 2,000 A.D. will walk straight to the corresponding floor of the building across the way. It is likely that, with thirty- or forty-story buildings, continuous sidewalks 400 to 500 feet in the air will join building to building for blocks, even miles.

Roadways will probably cross the street from side to side, high in the air. Already an Englishman, Lord Montague, has proposed viaducts running 200 feet above the present street level for London. But this development would shut off too much light from the street below, and render the chasm itself practically useless. New York’s elevated railroads now seem doomed for this reason. In their place the huge automobile highways of the future city will probably run across the housetops.

AS TO the present-level streets, the sidewalks will probably be raised to the second story level to permit a full stream of one-way traffic, utilizing all the space between the buildings. But the main transportation system will probably be underground. Subways and railways will be supplanted by a whole network of vehicular tunnels along the main arteries. A portion of the whole city will have “dug in,” or gone underground, just as is already the case of parts of the Wall Street district. The intersection problem will have been overcome, in part at least, by carrying one artery above the other at all main crossings.

Streets on five levels have been prophesied. At first this seems very unlikely, but if we stop to think a moment we find that to a surprising extent the condition has already come close to existence. If you stand in Forty-second Street, New York, for instance, in front of the Grand Central Station, there is a viaduct over you. That is one level. Forty-second Street itself is on the second level—the ground level. Go down into Grand Central Station, and you find trains below the present level of Park Avenue. They are on the third level. The “lower level” suburban trains are on still a fourth level down. About on this same fourth level is the Lexington Avenue subway. And another flight down—fifth level—is the Queensboro subway.

On the streets, surface trolley cars will have disappeared entirely, along with telegraph poles, sidewalks, lamp-posts, and everything else that will impede the stream of traffic. On many streets only pedestrians will be allowed. At least three distinct varieties of automobiles will doubtless be in existence. Small, light cars, more like the French cycle cars than most automobiles in use in this country now will probably be common. Large vehicles for carrying passengers—or trains of such vehicles—will probably survive as the descendants of the present-day buses. And huge commercial cars, perhaps, also more like small freight trains than like the trucks of today, will be carrying food, building materials and merchandise. For shorter hauls there will probably be traveling freight-ways, while escalators and moving sidewalks will also be common.

Airships, in all likelihood, will change the appearance of the city more than any other one thing. The great apartment houses of the future will probably be flat, to accommodate airships. Centrally located, as the railroad terminals are today, there will be huge air docks for the trans-Atlantic air liners. These liners will probably be of two types—fast, passenger-carrying heavier-than-air machines, and huge dirigibles a quarter of a mile or more in length, to meet the need of slower passengers.

Bright artificial lights will illuminate the tunnels, the deep basement stores and underground streets. At night the sky will be brilliant with the reflected glare from below, as well as the lights of airships and dirigibles, and the route markings and traffic signs of airways and landing stages. And advertising signs?— Well, imagine them for yourself! They may be bright enough to give everybody “klieg eyes,” and end by legislating themselves out of existence!

  1. Stannous says: April 16, 20078:52 pm

    This article is pretty accurate-
    The metropolitan area is defined by the United States Census Bureau as the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), with an estimated population (as of 2005) of 18,747,320.
    The NY Water Project is, as mentioned, a huge engineering project.
    5 levels of subways and trains and no streetcars (but lots of buses).
    A few errors though-
    The selection of meats and produce has not decreased though but that is because of greater refrigerated transport.
    And unfortunately the airports and lighter-than-air ships in downtown are absent.
    And a letter still takes 3 days to get from SF but almost no one will bother.

  2. Stannous says: April 16, 20079:02 pm

    and oh yeah, lots of extruded food but none of it piped into our homes! :(

  3. Jeffery Wright says: October 22, 20071:53 pm

    what? no jet cars? what kinda future is that, anyway?

  4. Charlie says: October 22, 20072:00 pm

    Hard to predict jet cars before the invention of the jet engine :)

  5. Josh says: July 30, 20107:49 pm

    WTF are “klieg eyes”?

  6. Firebrand38 says: July 30, 201010:20 pm

    Josh: Are you kidding?


    Main Entry: klieg eyes
    Variant(s): or kleig eyes \?kl?g-\
    Function: noun plural
    : a condition marked by conjunctivitis and watering of the eyes resulting from excessive exposure to intense light

    Also known as Actinic conjunctivitis…

    Kleig lights are explained here…

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